Sunday, February 20, 2011

500 shelters up for grabs in Sulu Province

Photo released by the Sulu Provincial Government shows Sulu Government Sakur Tan with Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman during a recent inspection of provincial government housing projects in Mainbung town. Tan says more than 500 shelters are to be constructed in Sulu as part of a massive housing program for the poor. (Text: Mindanao Examiner)

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 20, 2011) – At least 500 shelters are set to be constructed for poor families as part of a massive housing program in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, officials said on Sunday.

Officials said the projects are in collaboration with the Sulu provincial government, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Gawad Kalinga.

Sulu Governor Sakur Tan said the project is part of a program aimed at providing shelters to poor families in different villages in the province. Hundreds of housing units have already been built in the coastal town of Maimbung.

“We have built hundreds of shelters in the past years and we are going to construct more to provide descent housing for poor families and other important infrastructure projects that will hasten trade and commerce in Sulu,” Tan said.

He said a P32 million fish port and cold storage facility will also start construction this month in Maimbung town. He said the fish port and cold storage would be given to cooperatives, whose members are mostly fishermen and farmers.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala is expected to lead government officials in the ground-breaking ceremony of the facility on Thursday in the town.

Tan, who is now serving a second term, said he implemented various infrastructure projects the past years and is now continuing in many parts of Sulu. “I really don’t count the number of days of my public service. I just continue working hard for our people, for the development and progress of my beautiful province,” he said.

His days in office are marked with ground breaking and inaugurations of many development projects – from urban housing, health and education, to the promotion of tourism and trade in Sulu.

“Ours is a short and long-term program that will surely benefit not only our people and the province, but also the region as well. We have an ambitious peace and development programs that will address poverty,” Tan said.

He said Sulu, one of five provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is fast becoming a gateway to Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

Now with an airport bigger than the Zamboanga International Airport, Sulu hopes to attract more airliners to open routes in the province. Philippine Air Lines has already opened its regular 3 times-a-week flights from Zamboanga City to Sulu and further boosting trade and commerce in the province.

Ferries also ply the Zamboanga-Sulu-Sandakan routes and traders and travelers come and go, Tan said.

Although Sulu gets little projects from the Autonomous Region Muslim Mindanao, Tan said they have learned how to survive on their own by tapping so-called “people power.”

“We have our own version of people power and this is the cooperation of the different sector of our society – the people themselves, in making and achieving that change that will benefit us all, our children and the future – in the end. It is simply hard work,” he said.

Tan said he would also build a market place in Maimbung where locals can sell their catch and other marine products. He said government engineers are also working on a college that would offer free education to locals specializing in fishery and agriculture.

He said they are also promoting cooperatives in the province and has launched in the past fish cages and lobster fattening and seaweed farming in many coastal areas where fishermen formed themselves into cooperatives.

“I am a firm believer of cooperatives and we have aggressively promoted and formed many cooperatives that benefitted our farmers and fisher folks and even housewives are now members of cooperatives and they are enjoying the livelihood benefits of all these projects and programs,” he said.

Tan has also offered to host the main headquarters and training base of the police force in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in an effort to make it easier for authorities to effectively maintain the peace and order in the island-provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The current headquarters of the regional police is located far away in Maguindanao province in Mindanao Island. Maguindanao in central Mindanao and Lanao del Sur province in the west, are part of the autonomous region, but is also far away from each other.

Sulu province lies between Basilan and Tawi-Tawi, about 8 hours by boat from Basilan or Tawi-Tawi.

Tan, a known philanthropist and religious man, said he would like to see Sulu as a peaceful and progressive province, a former seat of government of the once powerful Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo which ruled over much of the southern Philippines in the past.

At its peak, it stretched over the islands that bordered the western peninsula of Mindanao in the east to Palawan in the north. It also covers the area in northeastern side of Borneo, stretching from Kimanis in now Sabah, to Tepian Durian in now Kalimantan. (Mindanao Examiner)

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